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Who gets to be on the group overseeing Greensboro's redistricting? It's complicated.
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Who gets to be on the group overseeing Greensboro's redistricting? It's complicated.

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GREENSBORO — After some delays, the City Council expects to take on the laborious and potentially controversial task of redrawing its five districts this fall and is ready to appoint a committee to oversee the work. 

That group — named the Citizens' Redistricting Committee — would meet between now and November. Council is expected to sign off Tuesday on a plan to appoint seven people to that group, whose formation hasn't been without angst from different spectrums across the city.

Who gets appointed — and why — has become the subject of speculation and debate.

At issue is whether organizations chosen for the committee would create the right balance of racial, economic and civic interests to fairly redraw district boundaries.

City planners are still processing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which will determine whether districts are out of balance with each other. The city was forced to postpone its regular November election because that data was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

City Council would be required to redraw districts if population numbers are out-of-balance by a certain percentage based on the new data and would certainly be guided by the advice of the Citizens' Redistricting Committee.

The Parker Poe law firm, which has been hired to guide the city through the redistricting process, recommended a committee of five or seven people, each representing a different group. 

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Initially, council members chose seven groups that would each appoint one member to serve on the committee: The League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, the ACLU of North Carolina, the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress, the Greensboro Chapter of the NAACP, the George C. Simkins Memorial PAC, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Council. 

During discussion last week at a council work session, however, Councilwoman Sharon Hightower said she was worried that the committee needed more diversity. 

A Parker Poe representative told council that six members had already been appointed to the committee. Their names would be withheld until the city approves the final makeup of the committee. But she said, as proposed, those six members included three Black men, one white man and two white women. 

Hightower said the group needs at least one Black woman and one of the groups will likely be asked to appoint that person. 

Hightower suggested the group include the Greensboro Business League, a minority business organization, as one of its members. 

In the end, Mayor Nancy Vaughan suggested that the ACLU be removed and the Greensboro International Advisory Committee be added to provide further minority representation to the group. The organization was appointed by the city to represent the interests of people whose national origin is outside the United States. 

City Attorney Chuck Watts told council earlier this summer that it must notify the Guilford County Board of Elections of new districts by Nov. 12 and provide council-approved details by Nov. 17.

If council can meet those deadlines, filing for candidates could begin Dec. 6 and would close Dec. 17.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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